When traveling, coffee lovers need to know where to go to escape the substandard American-style brew most hotels serve. There are cities that define themselves by their coffee culture, and that should not go untapped.
10. ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. The two main species of coffee plants — Arabica and Robusta — originated in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the world’s seventh-largest coffee producer and has 5,000 different strains of Arabica coffee, while other countries like Brazil and Columbia only have 20. So, there is little doubt that the coffee you are going to get in Ethiopia is good. Traditional Ethiopian coffee is roasted by hand and brewed in a traditional clay coffee pot. Nearly all restaurants and cafés in the city will have some on offer and it’s considered one of the best coffee experiences in the world. Scouting out coffee shops like Tomoca and Mokarara in Addis Ababa is highly encouraged, and taking part in an Ethiopian coffee ceremony should be an integral part of any exploration of Ethiopian culture.
9. VANCOUVER, CANADA
Vancouver is a city of microbrewers, roasters, bean educators, and champion baristas. A study showed that locals prefer fair-trade and organic brews here more than the commercial chain shop stuff. Independent and small-chain cafés are eager to showcase interesting coffee varieties like Clover and brewing techniques like vacuum-pot and cold-brew. Milano Coffee, the original Vancouver coffee roaster, has won awards for its coffee as well its master blender, Brian Turko, who brought a modern and unique approach to European espresso to Vancouver when he opened his Gastown shop. Milano has won three gold medals from the International Institute of Coffee Tasters in Italy.
8. VIENNA, AUSTRIA
The global consulting firm Mercer has ranked Vienna as the number-one city with the highest quality of life for four years in a row, a result of the city’s rising standards of living, advanced infrastructure, low crime levels, history, and culture. Part of that culture includes coffee; in fact, Vienna fashions itself the “Coffee Capital of the World” and UNESCO has listed Vienna’s coffee houses as an invaluable part of the city’s heritage. “Since Vienna hosted the World Barista Championships in 2012, and new-style independent coffee shops began to open up, the quality of espresso drinks is steadily improving,” says Vienna coffee blogger Lameen Abdul-Malik.
Vienna’s historic cafés are legendary, and it’s no surprise considering that the process of filtering coffee was reportedly invented in The Imperial City in 1683. The city has a high number of cafés, including the famed Café Central, considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and Aida, a small chain of thirty or so ‘50s-style kaffees that has achieved cult status in the city.
7. REYKJAVIK, ICELAND
Scandinavians have the highest coffee consumption per capita globally, so it only makes sense that Reykjavik wants to make sure its citizens and visitors are well taken care of, caffeine-wise. Some say the commitment to coffee here borders on fanaticism. Liz Clayton, author of Nice Coffee Time, considers Kaffitár, one of the city’s larger chain cafés, to be superlative. Many of Iceland’s coffee-barista champs are creating coffee here. “The counters of Kaffitár are confusingly cluttered with everything from pastries to horoscope scrolls to Hario kettles and drippers, and you’re able to order anything from the espresso family to a seasonal selection of single-origin coffees, all well-presented by the staff.” Another favorite is Kaffismiðja Íslands, where coffee is roasted onsite in a converted house-turned-café. “You won’t find a better cup in Reykjavík, and you won’t find a café quite like this anywhere.”
Don’t let the laid back nature of Hawaiian culture fool you; Hawaiians are serious about their coffee. Honolulu has the third-highest number of coffee shops per capita in the U.S., and it’s also the capital of the only state in the country that grows its own beans commercially. Kona coffee, from Hawaii’s Big Island, is grown in porous, mineral-rich soil, courtesy of the island’s volcanoes and hot sun, and it has a unique flavor as a result.
Rome consistently makes it onto best-of lists when it comes to cities with the best coffee. According to CNN, the nation’s best baristas call Rome home, which makes sense given that Romans drink five or more espressos a day and consider coffee bars and cafés “temples.” When you think about it, Rome defines the way the rest of the world drinks coffee. Cappuccino, latte, and macchiato are all Italian terms, and drinking coffee in Italy is an experience to be savored. Stopping to drink a cup, even if you’re standing, is more common than grabbing a coffee to-go, and Romans live by rules like “no cappuccinos after noon.”. Rome- and Paris-based writer David Downie considers Caffè Sant’Eustachio one of the best cafés in the world. Owner Roberto Ricci handpicks each of the 100-percent Arabica beans in the café’s signature blend. Beans are slow-roasted over wood for a smooth, sweet, and low-acidity coffee that locals and tourists line up for.
4. SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco has the most coffee shops per capita of any U.S. city according to WalletHub, and Foursquare data shows that it is the fifth overall in the U.S. for indie coffee shops per capita. New small-chain cafés like Blue Bottle — the highest rated indie coffee shop in the city — and Four Barrel are changing the game for coffee drinkers by offering things like a five-light siphon bar and not offering Wifi. Tried and true options like Caffe Trieste have been serving coffee to locals since the 1950s. These are just a few of the reasons San Fran is considered one of the best coffee cities in the world. Conde Nast Traveller considers the coffee at SFMOMA’s rooftop garden a work of art.
3. TAIPEI, TAIWAN
Taipei’s strong coffee culture and abundance of unique coffee shops helps it land on the list of the Best Coffee Cities according to the BBC, USA Today, and LifeHack. Beans here are high-quality, freshly roasted, and slow-brewed for the best flavor. Independent coffee shops like Barbie Café, Paper Plane, and Melange have cult followings. Smart Traveler ranks it among the world’s best, no doubt in part because of the beans available in Taiwan. According to reports, the growth rate of Taiwan’s imported coffee beans is more than seven percent each year, and the market is expected to grow by 15 percent.
Taiwanese coffee consumption is up 400 percent in Taiwan since the 1990s and has reached an average of 100 cups per person per year. It is a city that is dedicated to coffee and the increase in small cafés and chain shops shows it. “Independent cafés here do not just compete on the quality of their coffee; there is also a strong trend of each café creating their own signature drinks. As a result, independent cafés here are adventurous with ingredients when crafting their signature drinks,” says Van Lin, co-founder of Gabee Café.
2. MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
World Barista Champ Pete Licata told Travel & Leisure that “It’s nearly impossible to find a bad cup of coffee in Melbourne,” In 2013, Melbourne hosted Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar, part of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and the World Barista Championships. “Café culture walks” are a tourist draw, while locals prefer to occupy popular shops like Axil Coffeehouse Roasters in the Hawthorn area of Northern Melbourne and Dead Man Espresso in the South. Considered Australia’s coffee capital, Melbourne spoils its residents with an abundance of coffee-sipping locales. Shops like Market Lane Coffee source, roast, and serve coffee from some of the best growers in the world.
1. HAVANA, CUBA
Some consider coffee in Cuba to be its own food group. After a drop in Cuban coffee production due to bad weather and government cut-backs, the economy and industry is now growing again to meet demands. In town, many coffeehouses grind beans source locally and directly from the Escambray and Sierra Maestra mountains, making it some of the best coffee a connoisseur can get. Former British MP and Treasury Minister Phillip Oppenheim loves Cuban coffee so much, he has invested millions in making sure Cuba restores itself as the world’s biggest coffee exporter. Since Havana is Cuba’s capital city, and one of the BBC’s picks for best coffee cities, it’s only natural that the boom in tourism and economy will hit here first. The city is fueled by café cubano, a full-bodied espresso with sugar that accompanies nearly every meal.
Havana’s Old Town is peppered with cafés like Café El Escorial and Café de las Infusiones where the traditional coffee drink is perfectly made and on offer, alongside over a dozen other cups. Guests checking out one of Cuba’s busiest squares linger for hours.
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